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3.0 Relevance

3.1 Continued Need for the Program

There is a continued need for the Programs.

The Programs fulfill a unique need for recipients and contribute jointly to the achievement of the Department’s commemorative objectives. Specific Program objectives include:

  • Funeral and Burial: “Eligible Veterans who pass away as a result of their service or without financial means receive funeral and burial assistance from VAC.”
  • Cemetery and Grave Maintenance: “To maintain…cemeteries and grave markers throughout the world….To ensure that Canadians can access and take pride in these symbols of remembrance.”Footnote 14

The Honours and Awards Program, as a subset of the overall Ceremonies and Events Program, does not have a program-specific objective; however, its purpose can be broadly defined as providing tangible reminders of the sacrifices made and the valour shown by Veterans as well as recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the Veteran community.

3.1.1 Current recipients of the Programs

Funeral and Burial Program

Approximately 20,100 Veterans passed away in Canada during 2015-16, similar in number to the previous three years. During the evaluation period, the proportion of Veteran estates that received benefits through the Funeral and Burial Program ranged from 5.6% to 6.0%. Table 4 shows the estimated number of deaths and the number of benefit recipients by service type and year.

Table 4: Deaths and Funeral and Burial Program Reach by Year and Service Type
Program Actuals
2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Estimated Deaths
War Service Veterans 14,700 13,900 12,800 11,600
Canadian Armed Forces Veterans 6,700 7,800 7,500 8,500
Total Veteran Deaths 21,300 21,700 20,300 20,100
Funeral and Burial Program Participation
War Service Veterans 1,016 950 814 729
Canadian Armed Forces Veterans 211 263 372 445
Total Recipients 1,227 1,213 1,186 1,174
Overall % reached 5.8% 5.6% 5.8% 5.8%

Source: VAC Finance Division
Note: Numbers may not add due to rounding

Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program

Each new grave marker provided through the Funeral and Burial Program increases the number of Veteran graves maintained through the Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program. VAC has an obligation through this Program to preserve the memory of deceased Canadians who served their country during war and peace by maintaining symbols of remembrance in perpetuity.Footnote 15

In 2004, the Department introduced the Canada Remembers Grave Tracking (CRGT) system which allows for more efficient tracking of graves. Each year the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, through a contract with VAC, conducts cyclical tours to inspect graves and periodically discovers graves which were not previously known to VAC, which also increases the number of Veteran graves maintained through the Program. The volume of known Veteran graves in Canada increased from 177,366 in 2012-13 to 206,955 in 2015-16. Veteran graves overseas (570) and war dead graves throughout the world (110,364) are also maintained by VAC and CWGC.

Honours and Awards Program

War service Veterans are entitled to first issue and replacement service medals. Families of Veterans whose death were attributed to their service are eligible to receive a Memorial Cross from VAC, serving as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice.Footnote 16 The Honours and Awards Program also coordinates the provision of the Minister of Veteran Affairs Commendations which is aimed at recognizing those who contribute to the Veteran community. A large increase in issuance of first issue war service medalsFootnote 17 in 2014-15 could be associated with the creation of the Arctic Star and the Bomber Command Bar, introduced during the evaluation period. Table 5 shows the total number of honours and awards issued during the evaluation period.

Table 5: Honours and Awards by Fiscal Year
Medal Type 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
First Issue War Service Medals 426 262 505 315
Replacement War Service Medals 183 158 160 167
Memorial Crosses 88 176 158 138
Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendations 91 0Footnote 18 79 91
Totals 788 596 902 711

Source: VAC Commemoration Division

3.1.2 Responsiveness of VAC to the needs of recipients?

The evaluation team reviewed the responsiveness of two of the Programs to the needs of recipients: Funeral and Burial Program and Honours and Awards Program. Because the Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program’s primary purpose is to maintain the graves of Veterans and war dead in perpetuity, recipient needs are continuous and do not change.

Funeral and Burial Program

As a result of the 2009 evaluation of the Funeral and Burial Program and reports published by the Veterans Ombudsman and House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the Program has seen a number of changes over the past four years:

  • The amount of eligible funeral and burial expenses increased from $3,600 to $7,386;
  • Program eligibility expanded to include CAF Veterans;
  • Administrative costs of running the program were reduced by approximately $1 million; and
  • Survivor exemption amount increased from $12,015 to $35,738.Footnote 19

Honours and Awards

In keeping with VAC’s mandate of commemoration and the desire of Canadians to recognize the service of Veterans, new honours and awardsFootnote 20 have been created during the evaluation time frame to recognize the sacrifices of service associated with the Battle of Normandy and with the Bomber Command. Outside of issuing Memorial Crosses in respect of Veterans who passed away after release, VAC does not have any current responsibility issuing medals/awards to Canadian Armed Forces Veterans. Staff interviews revealed VAC has been receiving an increase in requests from CAF Veterans for medals/awards; the requestors are redirected to DND.

3.1.3 Future of the Programs

Demand for the Programs is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with the number of Veteran deaths in any given year affecting the number of recipients.Footnote 21

Funeral and Burial Program

The overall annual number of Veteran deaths is forecast to decline gradually over the next three years. Program reach is expected to remain relatively unchanged for the same period, with the forecasted increase in CAF Veteran deaths offsetting the decrease in war service Veteran deaths. Table 6 shows forecasted deaths and Program reach.

Table 6: Forecasted deaths and estimated future reach of the Funeral and Burial Program
2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Estimated Deaths
War Service Veterans 11,600 13,900 12,800 11,600
Canadian Armed Forces Veterans 8,500 7,800 7,500 8,500
Total Veteran Deaths 20,100 21,700 20,300 20,100
Estimated Funeral and Burial Program participation
War Service Veterans 560 500 440 380
Canadian Armed Forces Veterans 500 530 560 590
Total Recipients 1,060 1,030 1,000 970
Overall % reached 5.3% 5.3% 5.4% 5.4%

Source: VAC Finance Division

Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program

As noted in section 3.1.1, future demand for the Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program is driven, in part, by new Veteran graves being added to the complement of maintained graves. Although maintenance is performed each year, there are still a number of graves requiring maintenance. In 2016, more than 45,000 Veteran graves in Canada needed maintenance. VAC’s responsibility for maintaining and replacing grave markers is identified in Section 5 of the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. The need for the program continues in perpetuity, in that even if all the outstanding maintenance is completed, additional maintenance will be required as identified through the 12-year cyclical inspections.

Honours and Awards Program

Components of the Honours and Awards Program are affected differently by the current and future make-up of the Veteran population. There are no forecasts available relating to the future demand for medals and awards offered through the Program; however, based on actual requests during the evaluation period, it can be anticipated that there will be a continued need for the war service medal component of the Program for the next five years. As the war service population declines, there is a strong likelihood that the volume of medal requests will also decrease. The next Program evaluation should place more emphasis on determining ongoing need.

3.1.4 Is there overlap or duplication with like programs offered through other federal departments or levels of government?

No overlap or duplication was identified between the Program and other federal/provincial/municipal services.

The Programs fill a definite need for the Veteran community and the evaluation team found no overlap with programs and services offered through other authorities, a finding consistent with both the 2009 evaluation of the Funeral and Burial Program and the 2013 evaluation of the Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program.

Funeral and Burial Program

In addition to VAC, four federal departments offer funeral and burial benefits. Through Human Resources and Social Development Canada, the Government of Canada offers all eligible working Canadians with a one-time Canadian Pension Plan Death Benefit to the estate of a deceased CPP contributor.Footnote 22 Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada provides basic funeral and burial assistance, within a specified expenditure limit, for indigenous peoples with insufficient means to pay for a burial. Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence offer funeral and burial benefits to their members under an employee benefit and compensation program, and are considered an entitlement for all members who die in service. Other Canadians who die without sufficient means to pay for a funeral are buried at the expense of provincial or municipal social assistance programs.

Because Veterans’ estate assets, including other funeral and burial benefits, are identified upon application to VAC’s Funeral and Burial Program, there is no overlap in funding provided. In other words, while the various programs have similarities, VAC financial benefits are designed to enhance, not duplicate, services found elsewhere for Veterans.

Cemetery and Grave Maintenance Program

There are currently no provincial/federal authorities which offer regularly scheduled maintenance of Veterans’ graves. Community groups or local churches sometimes provide cosmetic upgrades to grave markers, particularly around key remembrance events, however they are not regularly scheduled and would not provide major maintenance if required. Therefore the Program fills a need which is not otherwise met.

Honours and Awards Program

The Department of National Defence provides service medals for Canadian Armed Forces Members/Veterans while VAC provides medals for war service Veterans. Although there is no duplication in the actual duties performed by the two federal departments, interviewed staff noted enquires were often received from CAF Veterans, who therefore had to be redirected to the proper channels.

3.2 Alignment with Government Priorities

The Programs are aligned with Government of Canada priorities and with the strategic outcomes of Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Government of Canada has emphasized its support to Veterans in its commitments to the Canadian public.

The 2015 Speech from the Throne states: “In gratitude for the service of Canada’s Veterans, the Government will do more to support them and their families.”Footnote 23 This support for Veterans was also reflected in the October 2013 Speech from the Throne which stated that the Government of Canada “…will always keep faith with those who have defended Canada with pride. Our veterans have stood up for us; we will stand by them.”Footnote 24 Through these speeches, the Government made a commitment to:

  • Ensure dignified funerals for our injured Veterans;
  • Reduce red tape so Veterans can access the benefits they need; and
  • Reach out to homeless Veterans and help give them the support they need.

In the Mandate LetterFootnote 25 to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, it is noted that its goal is to ensure that it lives up to

“…our sacred obligation to veterans and their families. I expect you to ensure that veterans receive the respect, support, care, and economic opportunities they deserve. You will ensure that we honour the service of our veterans and provide new career opportunities, make it easier for veterans to access services – including mental health services – and do more to support the families of Canada.”

In relation to this evaluation, the letter entrusts the Minister of Veterans Affairs to:

  • Ensure that all Veterans receive a dignified burial.

VAC’s 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities,Footnote 26 which is driven by three basic principles - care, compassion, and respect states: “We will care for the women and men who have served Canada, and through our support for them, assist their families. We will show compassion for their needs and work hard to meet them. We will respect them, and recognize their extraordinary service and sacrifices.” Priorities and planned activities include:

  • Recognize and honour those who served our country through Canada Remembers Program initiatives, including financial assistance for Veterans’ funerals and burials.
  • Advance work on the Government’s commitments to ensure that no Veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial.
  • Commemorate the achievements and sacrifices made by Veterans and the fallen, and keep those who served in the hearts of Canadians.
  • Identify and implement legislative changes and strategies to address complexity, gaps and shortfalls in VAC programming to better meet the needs of Veterans.

The Programs address the Government’s Veterans-related priorities by providing recognition, remembrance and financial assistance to eligible Veterans and their families.

3.3 Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities

The Programs directly align with federal roles and responsibilities

Under Section 5 of the Department of Veterans Affairs ActFootnote 27 and the authority of P.C. Order 1965–688,Footnote 28 the Minister of Veterans Affairs is entrusted with the primary responsibility for all matters relating to the commemoration of the war dead and recognition of the achievements of all Veterans. The Programs contribute to the Department fulfilling these responsibilities.

The Department’s second of three strategic outcomes is identified in the 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities as:

  • Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all who served in Canada’s efforts during war, military conflict, and peace.

The Programs directly support VAC’s commemorative responsibilities and this strategic outcome through the provision of funding and services to ensure the sacrifices of those who served Canada in war, military conflict and peace are not forgotten.

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